Long cigar ashes: What’s up with them?

Q. What is this bit about keeping a long ash on a cigar? Also, does it help to make the smoke cooler, or is it just a status thing (you know, like: “My ash is longer than yours”).
– Peter H. B. in Agoura Hills, CA
A. Actually, a long ash does help to “filter” some of the smoke, helps it smoker a littler cooler. The downside is, the longer the ash the more likely the cigar will go out, since it’s effectively being “smothered” by the ash. Remember, the “cherry” or “cone,” (the red glowing core of the ash) is now that much further away from air flow.

It is kind of fun though to see how long you can get the ash, and some cigar stores even hold “longest ash” contests. Most importantly is how the ash length relates to how the burn is regulated. When you do finally “ash” your cigar, you don’t want to knock-off the cone, so I advise gently “tipping” the ash off by rubbing it against the side of the ashtray. Keeping just a thin band of ash will protect the cone and help the cigar burn more evenly.